Making the Case for Astrology as an Evidence-Based Modality
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Although I was not immune to the brain insults of being a long-term addict, I prided myself in maintaining some sense of rationality during my "active" days. Addiction led me to a dark place. Before I hit bottom, I could pretend that I was logical, thoughtful, and perhaps, even mainstream. In that lifetime, and up until recently, if people asked me what I thought of astrology, I would politely say: “I have never been exposed to it.” However, without fail, every woman I dated would say something like: Leo’s and Gemini’s are compatible through the law of opposite attraction, or Leo and Aries are both fire signs and a good match.
Half the battle with addiction is getting out of that pre-contemplation state and beginning to envision a positive result
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At best, astrology to me, was the province of pseudoscientists, much like the racetrack handicappers I would listen to in my compulsive gambling career: it seemed the more you learned about it, the more confusing it got. However, confusion intertwined with superstition never stopped me from an absurdly uber-confident wager on my favorite numbers, eight and four (my birthday). Maybe if I applied numerology or astrology I wouldn’t have squandered two million dollars gambling, and perhaps, I wouldn’t have had such a toxic affair with John Barleycorn. Who knows? Maybe I would even have found peace with the universe rather than the paranoid-schizoid reality I became.
Now that I am clean and an addiction counselor, I am well aware of the pedantic constructs that go with the baseline knowledge of that discipline. I have to say that the older I get, the more I view the treatment of addiction as more art than science; much in the way that Stanislavski would say, “You can’t play Lear until you’re 50,”—meaning you must be pruned by its machinations before you can accurately feel the totality of life. Consequently, I gauge my growth as an addiction counselor as if I ”was working on my Lear.” (If you ever see two old actors meet after a hiatus from one another, they might say something like: “How is your Lear coming along?” or “I feel connected, even my Lear is evolving.”) For this reason, the thespian legend has always ascribed King Lear as the ultimate test for an actor.
Having the foundation of a classically trained actor in my youth, I always felt drama courses should be a prerequisite for an aspiring therapist. For example, a good counselor is always using a method actor’s template of finding out: the who, what, where, why and how of his client before some modicum of sense can be established about intent, motivation, biochemical proclivity, etc. The circumspection an actor brings to make a character lifelike is very similar to a counselor’s attempt to get an accurate feel for not only diagnosis, but what modality will be the right fit. Coincidentally, I recently read some Victorian poetry at a nursing home with a librarian friend of mine and she asked me if I employed method-acting theory in my therapy. I said “yes” and was struck by the insight of the question. She then asked, “What about astrology?"
I was silent for a moment and then answered, “Why do you ask that?” She replied, "I see a social worker who is also an astrologer." Suddenly, the respect I had for this woman’s cognitive and emotional intelligence began to quickly erode any pedestal I had previously put her on. However, life has taught me whenever I get a strong emotional feeling about something I feel I know, I have to back off because it is often the result of a defense mechanism—such as projection—rearing its ugly head and I will say something off-kilter. I gained composure and said softly ”that I know nothing about astrology.” Then without hesitation she said, “No problem, I am running an ongoing seminar on astrology with a local astrologer and you will be my guest on Tuesday at 7 p.m.” Ironically, before I could get into character and fake that I had plans that night she had already roped me in. She also said that she would make sure the subject of astrology and addiction was broached. I felt hoodwinked, to say the least, but I was stuck, given that she was a wonderful and helpful person.
I went to my car and still felt like I was just conned by some snake-oil salesman. As I drove to 7-11 for my comfort snack—Big Gulp and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—I began to chill out. Having once again returned to my adult state, I could not help but recognize that the moon looked full; I remembered how my old cat would run around like a nut during full moons. I thought, maybe this unwanted astrology diversion was meant to be—after all Shakespeare was a big believer and ultimately it was astrology that shaped King Lear’s fate. But, this is 2014 and I had enough fantasy in my life. If I didn’t get home and finish my day job’s paperwork, I might wind up being an unemployed actor again.
The astrology seminar started at 7 p.m. and, as usual, I was 10 minutes late when I walked into a room of about 50 people. I did not even have time to feel embarrassed that there was only one other man in the room with me. Right away, I played the mind game that I should have gone home and watched the baseball playoffs, because astrology was a woman’s discipline or better said—a hokey way of finding mystical meaning in my life. But I was trapped now, especially after my librarian friend gave me a friendly nod.
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The astrologer’s name was Carol and she was a middle-aged woman with a gentle demeanor and an infectious laugh, which was evident immediately when she said “her patience was going to be tested” by some confluent point in her natal (birth) chart. Right away, I liked her because of her ease with what counselors would call “self-disclosure.” I always thought that self-disclosure was a much underused therapeutic tool and the advantages of sharing something profoundly similar to what the patient was going through, far outweighed the chances of an ethical breach. My readiness to disclose was molded in my 12-step involvement over the years—but then again, what the hell did that have to do with the astrology lesson I was attending?
So, back to the subject at hand—astrology. I felt overwhelmed by her PowerPoint presentation that had all this triangulation and circular movements, interspersed with connecting vectors. It looked like the picture of an air traffic controller’s screen outside of O’Hare airport—it was too much for this ADHD counselor/addict to absorb. I felt like I was back in 10th grade geometry, which was not my favorite subject, to say the least. Then with all the talk about houses, sign moons, oceans and ever-complicated charting that was ensuing, I thought one thing: not only were these people crazy but they were savants as well—who else could digest a foreign nomenclature and bring pristine symmetry to what was the universe? I said to myself, “There I go, putting my clinician’s hat on again.” Couldn’t I just relax and take it all in like a normal human being? The complexity of the situation gave me no choice but to surrender and realize that this was beyond my scope, and I should just try to enjoy the energy (another ubiquitous word in the astrology lexicon) in the room.
After her presentation was completed and she took questions, I raised my hand like a wise guy and asked, “Are we in the age of Aquarius, like the Fifth Dimension song suggests?” Everybody started to laugh with some humming the iconic song that spent six weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. Carol laughed and said not yet, we are still under the sign of Pisces and in her work Aquarius was 600 years in the future, and not to worry about it. (Apparently, there are many different theories on whether Aquarius had arrived and even more on when it will arrive.) However, she wanted to talk about Neptune’s influence on Pisces, which entered Pisces in February of 2012 and would be with us until 2025.
The word Neptune opened up a floodgate of hands and Carol picked on my librarian friend, who having me in mind, asked: ”What were the ramifications of Neptune?” Then, with a laser vision stare I hadn’t seen since my Catholic school days, she said, “You have to be careful of addiction with Neptune.” Then, I knew I had been set up, and my friend and I exchanged smiles.
A few other individuals asked questions regarding the “Neptune influence” and it did not take long to realize that Neptune was the mothership of addiction and the Holy Grail for anyone trying to find the epistemological belief and not some tangential opinion. I said goodbye to my friend and thanked the speaker for her efforts and said I was late for an appointment (I decided a king-sized Milky Way was more appropriate with my Big Gulp tonight).
I had an appointment all right, but it was with Google and the subject matter was Neptune and addiction, which gave me almost a million hits. I read about 85 pages on the first 18 entries and they were an addiction writer’s dream. I even found an article by Jessica Adams entitled: “Neptune In Pisces And Your Horoscope From 2012”—the exact relationship the speaker was discussing. According to Adams: ”One reason that addiction is attributed to Neptune is that it was discovered the same year that general anesthetic was carried out.” She says this coincidence is a good match because Neptune under Roman mythology was the ”god of the sea” and “if you have ever been drugged for surgery you will recognize the feeling of floating in and then floating out of that altered state…and the modern needle was similar to the trident symbol of Neptune, which was used for pinning fish.” Adams also said that “hash” became famous in Europe the year Neptune was discovered.
Besides the above theoretical assertions, one thing I read about Neptune in all the articles—it can be intoxicating and unruly—creating anarchy without boundaries. Adams used the analogy of the Internet and porous nature of social networks, ”manifesting itself through this 24/7 means of information washing up on say, our Twitter feed, anytime, from anywhere.” However, the altered states that Neptune presents us with do not have to be bad if we monitor or regulate them. In fact, the pundits suggest that a little dose of mindfulness or some transient thought that brings you to a higher awareness supports a more nimble being. The potential problem with Neptune is subtle, and like gas under a door, you might not see it coming and therefore, if you are an addict or prone to addictions, you must be hyper-vigilant (like they tell you in 12-step programs).
Moreover, I am told that there are many alignments through your own horoscope that define your risk of being “Neptuned.” I can only say that the seeming multitude of interpretations that are presented with the substantive nature of being Neptuned, makes astrology eclectic, to say the least. Consequently, from a layperson’s view point, it seems that the beauty of astrology is: euphemistically, it provides you with an open lectern, so to speak, in which your own extrapolations are possible to decide your future perceived reality.
With the words “perceived reality,” I have arrived at the most meaningful phrase that bridges my understanding of astrology with the “precise” nature of science. In my opinion, it is this imprecise application of astrology where I feel it can be used as a helpful adjunct for encouraging recovery from addiction and not the logical jumping off point. The strength of astrology is it helps you garner control of your life simply by believing!
The constructs of the strength of positive thinking as your best defense towards healing and the use of “a power greater than ourselves” to nourish recovery is the very basis of the 12 steps, and more importantly, the whole new world of “epigenetics.” Dr. Joe Dispenza ingeniously describes this phenomena in his new blockbuster book, You are the Placebo, where he brilliantly lays out the scientific reality: by believing positive thoughts long enough our internal thoughts actually change our external outcome by a process he calls “self-directed neuroplasticity.” For instance, by putting the thought in our frontal lobes they get turned into "neuropeptides (chemical messengers) that turn genetic switches on and off.” He says, ”with practice you can learn to adjust your stress hormones for healing…in this way we can reshape our brains via the signals we pass through our neural network.“ He goes on to state, “This idea is at the very frontier of the scientific understandings of addictions and cravings.”
As this positive “auto-suggesting” becomes more passionate, the greater your likelihood of matching your emotional field with your quantum field becomes a reality. In a blog titled, ”It's Time For Us To Take Astrology Seriously" renowned astrologist Susan Miller says, “Astrology provides us with a certain structure that can produce positive thinking and actions about the future. We know we are not controlled by planets, but the planets do create a certain atmosphere of constriction or ease, that keeps us on our toes.” In other words, by becoming actively involved in our charting, it gives us an organizational framework to prepare for—and although things might not happen on your time—it helps to overcome inertia and take advantage of free will to guide and position the template of your life.
To me, half the battle with addiction is getting out of that pre-contemplation state and beginning to envision a positive result; if astrology or something in our chart helps people get to the magical point of acceptance then we have taken a gigantic leap. On the same note, if astrology portends a potential future pitfall for the addict, we then can be on guard and begin to build up an arsenal of defenses, which every addict needs to do. Finally, the very notion that astrology is filled with the unknown allows the addict to start thinking in a grey-mode perspective and away from the black and white thinking, that can be destructive for the addicted mind.
Whether the goals are “harm reduction” or “total abstinence” there must be an internal desire that is the impetus to affect an external change. You can look at it as “mind over matter” whereby your mental processes (the mind) creates a change in your quantum field (matter). Your thoughts are the accumulation of your emotional and cognitive intelligence. Consequently, your ability to edit your positive cognitive thoughts into a workable emotional response is the mechanism that gets you out of that passive state and starts to create a solution. No matter how great your addiction IQ is or how wonderful your therapeutic community is, you have to stop the “hamletization process” by establishing what resource(s) you are committing towards defeating addiction.
And if an astrological chart is the means by which your emotional intelligence accepts as the map that defines your recovery, and you engage in the interactive process of fine-tuning it, your positive beliefs will morph into a self-actualized reality. Passion of this sort that envisions success has held the key for transformative behavior that has been proven by scientists: Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Dr. Maxwell Maltz and now the aforementioned neuro-scientist, Dr. Joe Dispenza. (To name just a few).
Consequently, those that study science and treat astrology as a “fringe science” or a "gimmicky discipline” have missed the reality of astrology as possibly an evidence-based modality for addiction. Their collective apprehension has erroneously centered on the capricious nature and lack of macro-quantitative data regarding the end result of astrology; rather than seeing it as an evolving multi-dimensional construct of believing “in a higher power” that acts as a template for your life. Much in the way that people use religion for direction: astrology is no different if it brings passion, stability and purpose to one’s life.
We need not look at whether some antecedent linear construct pans out, but the pervasive positive energy employed by individuals in the direction of integration, that astrology affords them. Certainly, Johannes Kepler, the forefather of modern astronomy saw a certain spiritual basis to astrology when in 1606, he said "genuine astrology is a testimony of God’s works...somehow the images of celestial things are stamped upon the interior of the human being, by some hidden meaning of absorption.” Not a bad starting point for anyone looking for a higher power.
Kenneth Gaughran is an addiction counselor.